New campaign to stop escaped horses being hit by vehicles near St Albans

A gap in the fence next to the A414 where travellers horses have been escaping and getting onto the

A gap in the fence next to the A414 where travellers horses have been escaping and getting onto the road - Credit: Archant

Fly grazing of mainly travellers’ horses has reached “crisis level” with more than 40 removed from a busy arterial road in St Albans or put down in the past year after being struck by vehicles.

And there are fears the problem will get worse after a new Welsh law recently passed to tackle fly-grazed, abandoned and stray horses has meant the animals are increasingly being brought all the way to Herts instead.

With the number of horses being injured or euthanised after collisions on the A414 in Colney Heath rising, concern is mounting among local stables and riders.

Lynn Myland, chairman of the Herts Committee of the British Horse Society, said: “It is at crisis level. Vets have been called out to a number of horses, some of which have had to be put down because they have been involved in accidents.”

At the crux of the problem is that there are poorly managed parcels of land along the A414 corridor, owned by Herts county council and Lafarge Tarmac.

Lynn, who lives in Colney Heath, explained: “The council and Lafarge won’t fence them, and people have taken advantage of that. There is quite a lot of land and a fair amount of grass so horses are put in there and have something to eat, but they escape on to the grass verge.”

She organised a meeting recently in London Colney to tackle the problem of unauthorised grazing.

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Among the 34 attendees were landowners and representives of councils, animal welfare and equine services, along with trading standards officers, the deputy police commissioner David Gibson, and the head of Herts county council’s gypsy section.

Lynn said she was pleased to see the issue being taken seriously by such a wide range of people.

She said: “It proved there is a real desire to improve this situation.”

Those at the meeting, who agreed to take a partnership approach, also voiced concern about legislative changes which give Welsh local authorities the power to seize and impound horses and return them to their owner, re-home, sell or put down the animals.

While major welfare charities have welcomed the new law, they warned it increased pressure for action to be taken in England to prevent the problem moving over the border.

Lynn said: “People have said it is already a problem in England and in Herts already.”

St Albans MP Anne Main, who attended the meeting, has been asked to raise the matter in Parliament and try to strengthen legislation to enable land owners to more easily remove fly grazing or abandoned horses from their property.

Lynn said that Lafarge had now instructed workers to improve fencing along the A414 corridor.